Chelsea Sign the Future of Dutch Football?
It’s difficult to be overly panegyric of the clubs scouting network with regards to Chelsea’s signing of Marco Van Ginkel. Given our relationship with Vitesse, it would seem impossible that any serious talent emerging from their academy could go unnoticed by Emenalo and his scouts. However, given the reported interested of Manchester Utd and Milan, all indications are that the club has done a good bit of business; adding to and enhancing our already obscenely strong pool of U23 talent.
But just how significant a signing does this have the potential to be? The Youtube compilations and performances at the U21 Euros (I’m assuming that the majority, like me, won’t have seen more of him than that) certainly made for exciting viewing – in very few players (outside the Spanish squad) at those games in Israel, was intelligence and talent as evident as it was in Marco. What makes me truly excited about his arrival however, are the expert assessments and evaluations coming from the Netherlands about what the player represents for the future of Dutch football.
Now that Van Bommel has retired and with both Sneijder and Van Der Vaart’s careers in rapid decline, the midfield of the Dutch National Team is in desperate need of a revamp. Consensus in the Netherlands is that Van Ginkel, as it stands, is very much the man to take over from those two and potentially even, as claimed by Dutch football blog ‘football-oranje’, take the NT to “the next level”. Having led Vitesse to a hugely impressive 4th place finish in the Eredivisie – that his home country feels they have a ‘star in the making’ cannot be called into question.
As a result, it seems opinions in the Netherlands about the player’s move to Chelsea are considerably less enthusiastic than opinions on the player himself. A week ago Johan Cruyff had two pieces published in Der Telegraaf regarding youth development, in response to the U21’s Euro campaign. The second of the two rather explicitly advised none of the current Eredivisie-based members of the squad to move abroad this summer. Many, like Cruyff, are apparently worrying the move is coming too soon for Van Ginkel and that he’ll struggle to earn the playing time that is crucial for him to make Van Gaal’s World Cup Squad for Brazil – with the Dutch coach already having said that those not playing regularly stand no chance of selection. Naturally these were reservations shared by the player. A couple of conversations with Jose Mourinho however, appears to have alleviated them.
Surely one of the principle reasons Van Ginkel is causing so much excitement in the Netherlands is the rarity of the universality of his skill set. There is no shortage of physical holding midfielders in the Eredivisie at any age level, nor is there a dearth of out-and-out playmakers. Genuine box to box players like Marco however, are pretty hard to come by. Two of his U21 teammates Kevin Strootman and Leroy Fer more or less fit the definition also, though both are predominantly defensively minded, whereas Van Ginkel is naturally far more direct; the blueprint for the modern central midfielder.
Gradually over the last three seasons he has become more and more popular but his real breakthrough has been over the previous 12 months, which culminated with his receiving of the prestigious ‘Dutch Football Talent of the Year’ or Johan Cruyff award. If you read around for scout reports and opinion columns in Holland there are very few aspects of his game that weren’t praised at some point. His creativity and vision in advanced positions is exemplary. His awareness and intelligent use of space in that #8 position is also extremely advanced for both his age and above average for his nationality. He also clearly has a decent eye for goal with eight in 33 appearances last term. He has been labelled one of the most exiting talents from arguably his country’s most promising generation since the early 1990s. Dutch writer/expert, Marcel van der Kraan even compared his style and attributes to Holland and Premier League legend, Dennis Bergkamp!
Role at Chelsea
The suggestion has already been made that Jose Mourinho sees Van Ginkel as Frank Lampard’s long-term successor. The effects of the diminishment of Frank’s influence on the team as a both a provider of control in the centre of the pitch as well as a source of goals, have been plainly visible since his career peaked in 2010. It’s perfectly understandable Mourinho would want to find a similar player with the potential to play a similar role for perhaps another ten years, as he looks to build a side centred on young talent.
As far as next season is concerned however, I’ve read/heard some suggestions that Mourinho will switch Chelsea back to a 4-3-3. I don’t understand what these people are thinking. What won’t change from last season is that with this current group of players, where Chelsea can really hurt the opposition is through the middle of the pitch. In a 4-3-3 our best creative players will have to play wide positions and for what? To accommodate for foot soldiers like Ramires and Schurrle? I don’t think so. It seems far more logical to me that JM will stick with the 4-2-3-1 which means there are two potential slots for Van Ginkel in front of the back four.
With Mikel looking to be on the move to Turkey and Romeu possibly going to Valencia on loan, the young Dutchman’s competition for a place in the XI will be Ramires (whom we know Mourinho likes), Michael Essien (who surely only has a bit-part role to play, if any, from here), Frank Lampard (the man we assume he is intended to replace) and also any potential new signing (with stories regarding Daniele De Rossi not going away). Kevin De Bruyne is another option.
In short, by the sounds of things, Van Ginkel has the talent, the education and the attitude to become a huge player for Chelsea in a short space of time. Having never really seen him play, it’d be foolish to set expectations too high. Just like with the signing of Oscar last year though, everything I’ve read and seen just gives me a good feeling.
After what Johan Cruyff said about Mourinho being doomed never to succeed again in his career after his Madrid ‘failure’, he must be somewhat uncomfortable now with The Special One in control over the key developmental years of one of The Netherlands most promising young stars. Not that Cruyff’s words will have bothered Jose at all, but surely a chance to prove wrong a man who has been relentlessly critical of his career for years now, won’t be passed up by the Portuguese. Anyway…
Welcome to Chelsea, Marco Van Ginkel!